Mental health first aid comes to Boise

By Shannon Camp, KTVB

BOISE - This month marks five years since Olympic skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson took his own life. To those who watched him ski, Speedy was fearless. Flying, flipping and willing his way to three Olympic Games and a silver medal in Vancouver 2010.

“There’s always hope, Speedy always gave us hope,” said his cousin Shannon Decker, who also acts as president of The Speedy Foundation.

But off the snow, Speedy's family says he struggled like anyone else. Eventually succumbing to his lifelong battle with depression and anxiety in July 2011.

“Losing him was very difficult,” said Decker.

Throughout his career, Speedy was an advocate for mental health awareness. Speaking about his own struggles often in the media. Now, through The Speedy Foundation, his family hopes to continue that mission.

“As part of our family’s mission and my mission is just to continue the conversation that he started because he tried,” said Decker.

In just five short years, The Speedy Foundation, like its namesake, has taken off. Helping to create Idaho's first suicide prevention hotline, and teaching mental health education to hundreds of people in Utah, Idaho and now right here in Speedy's hometown of Boise.

“It’s very much like first aid, it’s very much like CPR,” said Decker. “But you’re more likely to come across someone who is having a mental health crisis than you are to someone who is having a heart attack.”

The foundation has teamed up with FACES, a center for victims of abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence. Together they are teaching mental health first aid in the Treasure Valley.

“How to help someone when you recognize these signs and how to just be a resource, how to listen, how to reach out for help where to reach out for help,” said Decker.

The goal is to give hope to those who need it, while honoring the man who gave hope to so many.

“I’d like to see no suicides is what I’d like to see,” said FACES COO Jean Fisher. “I think we have a lot of reason to be hopeful. I think we finally have resources to make that happen, to make that a reality.”

“To take that tragedy and our feelings of loss, it’s very easy to transition it into something that is hopeful, into eliminating the pain that we felt and the pain that he felt for anyone else,” said Decker.

The Speedy Foundation and FACES plan to host more mental health first aid courses in Boise and across the state.